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11 Body Language Essentials for Your Next Negotiation

If you aren't in control of your body language, it doesn't matter how much you've prepared for a negotiation. Here are some top tips.
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Negotiating successfully is about more than just saying the right thing. Commanding body language is an essential business tactic and has been studied for years--but mastering it can be a challenge. We asked 11 successful entrepreneurs from YEC for their best body-language tips.

1. Mirror Their Actions

Mirroring is when one person adopts another person's body language, vocal tone, and behavior, which builds rapport. For example, if the prospect is engaged, he or she will lean forward and follow your movements. If that's not the case and the person is leaning far back and crossing his or her arms, be sure to find a way to bring the person back in and ask what isn't right.
--Kenny Nguyen, Big Fish Presentations

2. Nod Your Head

I adopted a negotiation trick from President Obama after observing the following: Even when he's in the middle of a disagreement or being harshly criticized, he nods his head and maintains eye contact. I found that doing the same in negotiations defuses tension and builds alignment, even during contentious conversations.
--Christopher Kelly, Convene

3. Pay Attention to Your Hands

When people are nervous or stressed, it often shows in their hands. When you're negotiating, make sure your hands project confidence and poise. Fidgeting or clasping your hands tightly together reveals that you're nervous. The other party can take advantage of that. Try putting your hands just below your chest and put your fingers together when you want to confidently make a point.
--Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World

4. Plant Your Feet

Your face, head, and hands are obvious body parts to control when negotiating. But your feet? Not so much. Keep them firmly planted on the ground to show your resolve. It also ensures that you avoid coming off as ambivalent or stubborn. This helps you stay confident, too. --Danny Wong, Blank Label

 

5. Relax Your Body

Negotiations can be intense, so assume a relaxed body position to help ease the tension. Complement that body language with soft-spoken or non-aggressive commentary. This can help build trust and lead to more effective negotiations.
--Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

 

6. Remember to Smile

It's important that the environment doesn't get too intense. For the deal to be successful, it will most likely be a long-lasting relationship, and that can't happen if it's not friendly between both sides. --Jordan Fliegel, CoachUp

 

7. Keep an Open Posture

Keep yourself pleasant and appealing. Lean in and act engaged, and keep your stance open. People want to feel like the deal is about (or at least includes) them, even if it's not in their best interest. So they may not get exactly what they want, but they do want to know that you're interested in their thoughts or feelings about a topic in the negotiation. Otherwise, they shut down.
--Andy Karuza, brandbuddee

8. Hide Your Nerves

Do not fidget during a negotiation. Any signs of being nervous or anxious can be a red flag. Don't bounce your legs, tap your feet, or touch your face. You want to appear calm and confident to the person with whom you are negotiating.
--Heather Huhman, Come Recommended

 

9. Keep a Poker Face

A good poker face is essential. I once heard someone say, "Don't negotiate like you're Tony Soprano unless you have a gun in your hand." That's true. People think they have to talk like Gordon Gekko in a negotiation. The best do their homework, come with really strong data and facts, and don't show their hand.
--Danny Boice, Speek

10. Show Your Patience

When negotiating, pretend that you are sitting with your grandmother. You need to focus because she might speak softly, and you certainly need to be patient explaining things because topics that are obvious to you (Facebook and mobile apps) may be foreign to her. Make sure to smile a lot, too. And focus on your partner; be empathetic to his needs. --Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

11. Hold Eye Contact

Although there are other body language factors that can detract from your negotiation skills, faltering eye contact is the most detrimental. The saying that eyes are the windows to the soul also applies to effective communication. Not maintaining eye contact gives off a perception of uneasiness, as well as a lack of confidence and conviction--characteristics that no strong negotiator embodies.
--Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

IMAGE: Philippe Moreau Chevrolet/Flickr
Last updated: Aug 26, 2013




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